BASEBALL: Athens wins first regional title in school history

| June 6, 2015 | Comments (0)



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ROCHESTER HILLS — Not too many in attendance gave Troy Athens or Utica Eisenhower much of a chance entering Saturday’s Division 1 regional at Rochester High.

Still, the two unheralded ball clubs advanced to the regional finals with Athens claiming its first regional title in school history with a 4-1 victory over Eisenhower in the finals.

In the semifinals, Athens upended OAA Red Division champion Rochester Adams, 5-2, while Eisenhower upset state-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice, 2-1, in eight innings in the second semifinal.

But the day belonged to the Red Hawks (19-9), who last reached the regional finals in 2007 before falling to eventual state champion Lake Orion, 4-3.

“It means so much to us seniors. We’ve wanted this for a long time,” said Athens senior left-hander Joh VanHoef. “To do this as a seniors makes it even more special. And a lot of people didn’t think we could do it.”

Athens will face Hartland on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Novi High School with a berth in the Final Four at stake.

“We don’t mind the underdog role,” said veteran Athens coach Mike Morris. “We knew we had the pitching to get us here. Last year we lost (in the district semifinals) to Adams where our guy threw a one-hitter but lose 1-0. We had almost everybody back this year and we knew once we got to this stage that we could do it. A lot of people didn’t give us a chance.”

VanHoef, a four-year varsity veteran, pitched a five-hitter with three strikeouts in the finals.

Eisenhower (18-16), which won 11 straight games entering the contest after a 4-14 start, scored in the second inning when Pete Zeimis singled and later scored on Justyn Schoening’s RBI sacrifice.

Athens responded by stringing together four straight singles in the third, with Matt Lerdahl and VanHoef delivering RBI singles in the rally to put the Red Hawks up for good at 2-1.

Brendan Genereau singled in the fourth and crossed the plate on a throwing error to widen the lead to 3-1, while Louis Kassak singled in the fifth and scored on an RBI groundout by Joey Stark to cap the scoring for the Red Hawks.

“They came out and pounded the zone and trusted our fielders to do the work,” offered Morris of his pitching staff. “For the most part we played pretty clean games. We knew we could do it. We had some injuries the first part of the season. But once we got everyone back we started to play the way I felt we could play.”

Eisenhower finished fourth in the MAC Red Division this season, but pulled the stunner of the day with its extra innings upset of Brother Rice.

““It was a special day today to experience the unthinkable. If you gave anyone a million dollars in the state of Michigan and asked them to risk it on Brother Rice or Eisenhower, nobody would’ve taken Eisenhower. Not even our parents.”said Eisenhower coach Jason Gendreau. “But we kept battling and battling and found a way. I think against Athens, we just ran out of steam. No one thought we win districts this year. We have 13 (underclassmen) with three sophomores and a freshman that played today.”

Athens opened the day with its semifinal win over Adams, where Lerdahl didn’t surrender an earned run. He struck out three, walked three and scattered only three hits.


He was backed by a four-run fifth inning to put Athens in control.

“We had a great season. We won a league and district in the same season for the seventh time in school history,” said Adams coach Mike Hall. “But I don;t think we played our best today. We had some errors and we didn’t (gain the clutch hit) and they took advantage of a couple of our mistakes. It’s one thing where you play your best and lose, but another where you don’t play your bet and lose. Hats off to Athens because they made the plays. (Lerdahl) pitched a great game. He had us guessing all day.”

Adams (28-12) scored two runs of a pair of Athens errors in the fifth and had two runners in scoring position in the seventh but could not convert again.

In the second semifinal, Eisenhower ace Pete Zeimis scattered three hits over eight stellar innings of work. He helped his own cause with his game-winning RBI single to left field.

Steve Ciennik put the Eagles on the board in the fourth with an RBI single.

Brother Rice (32-10) tied it in the sixth when Nick Plummer walked and later slid around a tag at the plate. The Warriors could not muster another run.

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